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- Devices like the Apple TV 4K (currently $170 at Best Buy) are great for 4K and HDR support, but for some people, they can be a little expensive.
- With the Roku Ultra (currently $87 on Amazon), you can still enjoy 4K and HDR content without having to shell out a ton of cash.
- The Roku Ultra boasts a decent design, 4K and HDR support, access to tons of apps, and more.
Roku has been making video-streaming and smart TV technology accessible for a few years now, but the company’s product lineup doesn’t just comprise of ultra low-cost streaming sticks — there are also more premium streaming boxes like the Roku Ultra.
In my opinion, the Roku Ultra could be one of the best streaming devices of all time. The platform supports a range of apps including Netflix, Hulu, and so on, as well as 4K and HDR — and all at a relatively reasonable price. Here’s my experience with it and why I think it’s a great streaming device for anyone with (or even without) a budget.
Most of Roku’s product lineup is made of up streaming sticks that protrude from the TV itself, but the Roku Ultra is a little different and comes with two items — the streaming box and remote. It’s similar to the Apple TV.
The streaming box is a 4.9-inch square about 0.85 inches thick, and the all-black design is pretty sleek. The box should like right at home on any entertainment center or TV stand.
Around the edge of the Roku Ultra, you’ll find several ports and slots — HDMI, Ethernet, MicroSD, and USB — and that’s the main thing that differentiates the Ultra from the Roku Premiere+. It’s a good selection to support different accessories, though the previous-generation Ultra included an optical port for audio, so we’re not exactly sure why Roku decided to get rid of it.
On the top of the device, there’s also a button that can trigger a sound from the remote — good news for those who always lose the remote in the couch cushions.
There’s also the design of the remote, which looks pretty nice. It offers all the basic playback and software controls you’d expect, plus it has individual buttons that quickly pull up pre-installed apps like Netflix and Hulu, voice control, and a headphone jack for listening to your TV in private.
In general, we found the remote to be super simple and easy to get used to.
Read more: The best streaming sticks and boxes you can buy
- Measures 4.9 x 4.9 x 0.85 inches
- Weighs 8 ounces
- Has HDMI, MicroSD, Ethernet, USB ports
- Includes headphone jack and voice control on remote
- 4K and HDR10 support
Setting up the Roku Ultra is very simple — even more so if you’ve already used another Roku device and already have an account. If not, however, the process is still pretty easy.
All you’ll need to do is plug the device into a power outlet, connect the HDMI port to your TV, then follow the on-screen instructions to create an account. You’ll have to log into your Roku account on a computer or smartphone to complete the process, after which you’ll be presented with a range of apps you can download. Some are already checked off, so you may want to de-select the ones you don’t plan on subscribing.
In general, the setup process only takes around 10 minutes, less if you already have a Roku account.
Read more: You don’t have to spend over $100 on a media streaming device, and Roku’s new box proves it
What makes it stand out
These days, 4K and HDR support isn’t all that special, but offering these features for under $100 is pretty nice.
To be clear, you’ll be able to enjoy high-quality 4K and HDR content from Netflix, Hulu, and so on as long as you have a 4K-capable TV. In terms of general performance, the device is pretty solid — everything looks crisp and videos load relatively quickly.
Apart from video performance, the Roku Ultra is a very capable device, thanks largely to the remote. It has voice control built right in, meaning you can hold down the button and tell the device to “launch the Netflix app,” “play classical music,” and so on. We found that the voice control worked pretty well and the device usually picked up what we were saying without issue.
You can also connect Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa to Roku, after which you can use either to control certain things like playing and pausing video, launching apps, and so on.
The Roku Ultra even has some simple gaming features, though you probably won’t be replacing your gaming console anytime soon. With the directional pad and the “A” and “B” buttons on the remote, you can play games like Tetris, Snake, and so on. It’s a nice way to have a bit of fun in between episodes of Stranger Things.
Cons to consider
In general, the Roku interface has been more or less the same for years and it’s starting to feel a little stale. That’s not to say it’s bad — it’s not, by any means. It’s pretty easy to navigate, but a refresh would be nice. That said, unlike hardware, the software can be updated, so if or when Roku updates its interface, you’ll likely get it on your Roku Ultra.
One small thing that could be an issue for some is that the device doesn’t support Dolby Vision — only HDR10. Most people won’t notice a difference, but the content that supports Dolby Vision in the first place is a little limited.
The bottom line
The Roku Ultra may not be perfect, but for less than $100, it may well be the best streaming box you can buy.
The Apple TV 4K is a better option for most people with better software and hardware, but it’s also at least $80 more expensive, so may not be a viable option for everyone. At under $100, we recommend the Roku Ultra to anyone that wants a high-quality streaming device with 4K and HDR support, but without the hefty price tag.
Pros: 4K and HDR support, easy to use and navigate, well-designed, inexpensive
Cons: Roku interface feels stale
Buy the Roku Ultra on Amazon for $87 (originally $99.99)
Buy the Roku Ultra on Roku for $99.99
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